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Why is it so ironic that, last Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that congressional leaders had reached a compromise with the Bush administration to make proposed trade agreements with Peru and Panama somewhat less terrible, and would now encourage Congress to approve those agreements?

Less than a week earlier, U.S. trade negotiators admitted that – oops! – back in the early 1990s, at the start of the WTO, they’d accidentally committed the entire nation to provide completely unfettered access to foreign Internet casinos:

the United States did not intend to adopt commitments that were inconsistent with its own laws … gambling or betting services are generally prohibited or highly restricted in the United States for reasons of public morality, law enforcement and protection of minors and other vulnerable groups.

We only noticed the blooper when casino host country Antigua filed a successful trade lawsuit (European countries were expected to follow suit). And what the government isn’t emphasizing now is that, in order to withdraw our gambling market from WTO jurisdiction and protect countless state and local gambling laws, we’re going to have to pay through the nose to Antigua and any other country that feels cut out of the action.

So, when Pelosi tells Congress, and the rest of us, that it’s “a new day,” and that all the problems with the proposed U.S-Peru and U.S.-Panama trade agreements – extraordinarily complex, binding treaties – are fixed now, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do you feel lucky?

Well, do you?

Elizabeth Palmberg is an Assistant Editor for Sojourners magazine. + Learn more in Sojourners’ May special issue on trade justice

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